The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled this Wednesday that the bargaining fees of labor union American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) are unconstitutional, potentially threatening UC labor contract negotiations.
In Janus v AFSCME, a case between an Illinois branch of AFSCME and an Illinois State government employee, SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that forcing non-union members to pay union dues violates the First Amendment. Public-sector unions typically charge these fees to ensure that people cannot benefit from union contracts without financially supporting negotiations.
AFSCME Local 3299, the branch of AFSCME representing 25,000 UC employees, is in negotiations with the University of California to give workers wage increases, better job security, and more affordable healthcare.
In May, AFSCME 3299 held a strike because of contract disagreements between the union and the UC system, as well as the release of a study that found women of color employees face a significant wage gap. After the strike, both U.S. Representative John Lewis and Senator Kamala Harris boycotted their respective commencement speeches at UCSD and UC Berkeley in solidarity with AFSCME 3299’s negotiations.
In response to the ruling, AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said: “The court’s ruling is an extreme case of judicial activism that will normalize wage theft, income inequality, discrimination, and workplace violence, and other labor abuses by effectively forcing the only private organizations that exist to correct these injustices to deliver their services for free.”
According to AFSCME 3299, the SCOTUS decision will weaken workers’ bargaining abilities and allow the UC to divide union members.
“The real question is whether UC President Janet Napolitano will stand with Donald Trump’s war on California workers or whether she will finally honor the principles of equality, fairness, and social mobility that UC claims to profess,” Lybarger said.
Ethan Coston is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow him @Ethan4Books